Living Stronger: NASA astronaut, 57, setting records and breaking barriers

Living Stronger is a “CBS Evening News” series celebrating the people leading the way to longevity -- and inspiring the rest of us.


NEW YORK -- NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has blasted through glass ceilings and into outer space three times, and is on the International Space Station right now.

At 57, she’s: 

  • the oldest woman ever in space
  • the first female commander of the International Space Station
  • has tied the number of spacewalks by a woman at seven
  • and has walked in space for over 46 hours; all evidence of living stronger.

“Breaking records has never been my goal. I think it’s important that we’re continually pushing our limits and showing that we can extend beyond what we have done before,” Whitson said in an interview with CBS News’ Elaine Quijano.

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Peggy Whitson

Her journey began in the Midwest.

“When you were growing up in Iowa, I understand you sold chickens to get your pilot’s license and that a couple of people told you early on that you should not pursue a career in science. What drives you?” Quijano asked.

“The advice I give young people is that you have to pursue something and you have to have fun along the way,” Whitson said.

Advice she follows faithfully. “One of the most fun things to do while living here is to just be here,” she said.

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Whitson doing a spin in zero-gravity

“What do you do on the space station when you’re not working?” Quijano asked.

“We have a phenomenal window in the cupola. It’s a 360-degree view of the Earth. And it’s just an incredible view. There’s always something new, something even more beautiful than the last time,” Whitson said.

She also takes time to work out twice a day, a necessity to offset the effects of zero gravity.

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Whitson on a space walk

NASA

When she returns to Earth this spring, Whitson will set another record, for the most time in orbit of any NASA astronaut, man or woman: over 534 days.

And space, she says, offers at least one advantage over Earth.

“Space flight’s good for age, I have a lot less wrinkles up here,” she said. “It’s a good place to be as you get older.”

Another view of age, open to a universe of possibilities.